As she scripted down her grades before her sponsor, no one could believe how excellently she had performed or that she was the same girl who looked void of hope for education some three months ago. Now she was glowing, her head high, and her vision clear; full of hopes of becoming the next greatest journalist in the country.
At 14 years, Cheboiboi had gone through what she describes as ‘abnormal life for a girl child’. A first born in a humble family of four, she has been very instrumental in fending for her younger siblings despite having both parents. Living in a tiny village in Laikipia West, both her parents are unemployed. They would crush boulders to make concrete, out of which they would sell and make a living. To her, they lived one day at a time. She would therefore join her parents in a bid to make more for the family. Many are the times they would go hungry for a day or two and would survive the nights on drinking water; which was also not clean. This would force her to go to school with an empty stomach. Often, she would be sent home for as little as KES 470 primary school levies after which she would join her parents in crushing stones. School uniform was also a problem to her. She confesses wearing a sweater while in class seven! Even with all these challenges, Ekwan would work hard and be passionate on advocating for the rights of the marginalized girls in her community through poetry and drama. She has the confidence and right attitude.
On 9th May 2014, during Jielimishe GEC Baseline Dissemination held at Catholic Church; she happened to be among the few class 8 girls asked to discuss and present on the challenges facing the girls in pursuit of education. When all her friends were hesitant, she stood to share on their discussion. ‘I had three points,’ she recalls, ‘scholarship for the girls, electricity for the school and equal treatment of boys and girls’. Little did she know that these ‘three points’ would mark her turning point. Engineer Mike Mutungi; CEO I Choose Life- Africa and Director JIELIMISHE GEC PROJECT was extremely moved by how strongly the girl had put her case forth. He decided to challenge her to attain more than 300 points in her KCPE and he would sponsor her to secondary school. Little did he know that the girl actually thrives in challenges.
‘He reignited my last ambers for education’ Cheboiboi paused, ‘I knew that my father was, in every way, not going to able to support my secondary education. To fill a lorry that goes for KES 5,000, we would have to crush the boulders for 6 months without break.
Then the KES 5,000 would go to fees or buying food for the family!’ she wondered. Clearly, to her, the challenge was a ‘do or die.’ The girl was motivated to work extra hard, she would report to school earlier than others and at times leave late. She would be all over her teachers for assistance. True to her effort, after KCPE, she scored 306 marks out of a possible 500 marks. She was excited but admits ‘…these were not my marks [sic], at time I used to go to school hungry. I would have scored over 350 marks’
The C.E.O was true to his word. During a corporate mentorship event at Rumuruti targeting other girls like her, he awarded Cynthia her scholarship which facilitated her enrollment to Loise Girls Nanyuki, a county school in Laikipia County. Not forgetting her background, Cheboiboi knew she was in the school for a purpose; to get education and free her family from cycles of poverty. Life for her is conducive. She has plenty of time to study as opposed to walking long distances; a case that characterized her primary schooling. According to her …’I study hard, I always ensure that I listen to the teacher keenly and read more from the text books. I always seek clarification whenever I don’t understand because I know the teachers are willing to help. I want to get excellent grades so that my sponsor can be motivated to fund my university education.’ Asked who she’d want to be after her studies, Cheboiboi asserts that she would want to be a journalist so that she can use the media to empower more girls in her community and the world at large. To her, nothing will come into her way of realizing this dream. This is quite evident from the first term results where she posted a clean ‘A’ of 82.25 points. Her worst score was an A- out of 8 subjects! In CRE, she got 99%.
As I listen to her affirm that she will indeed make a change in her community, I could not help but wonder how many girls out there, just like her, would want someone to come their way and help them utilize their potential to change their the community? Cheboiboi is a living example of girls that the Jielimishe GEC project is supporting to complete the education life cycle and improve their life chances. If more are supported, then the life chances of such girls will surely be increased. The Jielimishe Project is seeking to support such girls 2,000 in Laikipia County at KES. 17,000 per year. The project is therefore looking for 2,000 sponsors. You can be the answer to a girl’s dreams.